As the heavy morning fog lifted, the trapped Federal garrison, helplessly huddled in its defenses, looked around and saw Confederates everywhere–in front, on either side and behind them. When Mother Nature dissipated and exposed the Union soldiers, the cordon of Confederate artillery opened up and pounded the garrison into surrender. As garrison commander Dixon Miles rode waving the white flag and imploring his men to cease firing, an artillery shell plowed into him, mortally wounding the man charged with Harpers Ferry’s defense. The surrender of Harpers Ferry stiffened Lee’s resolve. Lee changed his course, stopping his men short of the Potomac River at Sharpsburg, a place to reunite his army, make a stand, and his resurrect his broken campaign. George B. McClellan led his forces from South Mountain after Lee. By the end of September 15, the two armies faced each other across Antietam Creek.
With Dixon Miles severely incapacitated, the post of surrendering the garrison to “Stonewall” Jackson fell upon Julius White’s shoulders. When White and Jackson first met to discuss terms, the contrast could not have been more different.
[White] was mounted on a handsome black horse, was handsomely uniformed, with an untarnished sabre, immaculate gloves and boots, and had a staff fittingly equipped. He must have been somewhat astonished to find in General Jackson the worst-dressed, worst-mounted, most faded and dingy-looking general he had ever seen anyone surrender to.
The Confederate victory yielded great rewards, not the least of which was a vast amount of much-needed supplies and food. Besides that, though, the surrender forced an astounding 12,500 Union soldiers to sit on the war’s sidelines for the next few months, ignominiously guarded by other Federals. It is no stretch to say that any of those recently surrendered soldiers were happy about their plight, as one Unionist remembered.
They hoisted the Bars and stars where an hour before our glorious old star-spangled banner floated proudly in the breeze. Oh, how my heart beat and my bosom heaved to see that corrupt flag raised in defiance over us.